By Ben Rosario
Senior opposition Rep. Edcel Lagman (LP, Albay), a staunch supporter of the ABS-CBN network legislative franchise renewal, yesterday warned the National Telecommunication Commission (NTC) against violating the law by issuing a provisional authority to allow the network to use the frequency assigned to it even way past the effectivity of its existing legislative franchise.
Lagman’s position on the issue, in a way, backed the Supreme Court petition for the issuance of a temporary restraining order that would stop the NTC from heeding the House of Representatives’ request for the grant of provisional authority that would not prevent ABS-CBN from closing when its legislative franchise expires May 4.
The SC petition was filed by lawyer Larry Gadon who also vowed to pursue graft charges against NTC officials if they persist in granting the provisional authority.
“I have said this before, repeatedly, that the National Telecommunications Commission has no jurisdiction or power to issue a provisional authority or a certificate of public convenience and necessity to an applicant who has no existing franchise or has an expired franchise that has not been renewed by the Congress by means of an appropriate law,” Lagman told the House media yesterday.
He said: “The inflexible rule under Republic Act (RA) No. 7925 is ‘no franchise, no operation.’ Any suggested relief short of a legislative renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise is not legal and viable.”
NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba has been invited to appear before the House committee on legislative franchises on Wednesday.
In the hearing, the first to be conducted on the 11 bills proposing the ABS-CBN legislative franchise renewal, Cordoba will be informed that the House panel chaired by Palawan Rep. Franz Alvarez, is already acting on the legislative proposals.
The NTC chief is also expected to respond to the request for the issuance to the ABS-CBN of a provisional authority to operate while the Lower House is still deliberating on the franchise bills.
Gadon cautioned NTC against granting the request, pointing out that doing so is tantamount to “giving undue favor” to a private entity, an action that is penalized under the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
Gadon called on the NTC to observe the constitutional provisions on the separation of powers between the legislative and executive department s of the government.
According to him, the NTC is not duty-bound to grant the Lower House request that was presented to the commission in a letter signed by Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and Alvarez.